Washington Post: China told Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Friday that Tehran should abandon its defiance of U.N. sanctions and work for a swift return to talks to resolve the standoff over its nuclear program. The Washington Post
By Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, January 6, 2007; A09
BEIJING, Jan. 5 — China told Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Friday that Tehran should abandon its defiance of U.N. sanctions and work for a swift return to talks to resolve the standoff over its nuclear program.
The Chinese admonition, conveyed by the official news media, came in a meeting between Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, and President Hu Jintao, who urged a “serious response” to the U.N. sanctions. State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan, China’s senior foreign policy troubleshooter, gave Larijani a similar message Thursday, the New China News Agency reported.
China’s public advice to Iran marked another instance in which Beijing seemed to be following a course parallel to that of the United States on nuclear nonproliferation. Diplomats from the two countries have worked with increasing closeness over the past three years in Chinese-sponsored negotiations to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
The Bush administration, in tandem with European leaders, has championed tough sanctions to force Iran to back down and reportedly is seeking new measures that would go beyond those already imposed. President Bush said Thursday that he thought it would be difficult to ensure a peaceful world if the Iranian government pushed forward with its research program and eventually equipped its military with nuclear weapons.
Although it has been reluctant to support sanctions in the past, China backed the U.N. Security Council’s unanimous resolution of Dec. 23 that imposed sanctions on Iran and called for a suspension of its uranium enrichment program. But the Iranian Foreign Ministry dismissed the resolution as “illegal,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called it “trash paper” and the enrichment effort has continued apace.
Tang and Hu both reminded Larijani that the resolution passed unanimously, meaning China also voted for it, and said it reflected the concerns of the international community about safeguarding nonproliferation.
“China has always maintained that dialogue and negotiations are the best way to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue,” Tang said, according to the news agency.
Larijani, in a news conference, said he had conveyed a letter from Ahmadinejad to Hu. He declined to specify its contents but sought to dispel the notion that Iran and China might be estranged because of China’s decision to join the United States and other Security Council members in condemning Iran’s nuclear research program.
“Of course, we know who is really behind these sanctions, so we are not blaming anybody for this,” he said, alluding to the United States. The growing commercial ties between China and Iran will not be affected, he said, adding, “Countries that have long-term strategic relations will not change them because of tactical issues, and this was a tactical issue.”
Larijani said that, in any case, Iran’s government is not concerned about the new sanctions, which bar trade in nuclear- and missile-related goods. “The Americans have been carrying out this kind of policy for 27 years,” he said, “and it’s not had much effect.”
Larijani said Iran’s case is different from North Korea’s because North Korea has developed a nuclear weapon, and “it is not part of our strategy to seek nuclear weapons.” He said Iran wants to remain in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty regime, but added, “If we are threatened, that could change.”
Larijani dismissed Bush’s comments as just one more in a string of U.S. criticisms. If the U.S. leader is genuinely worried about the dangers posed by nuclear weapons in the Middle East, Larijani said, “he should worry about Israel.”